Bour gets opportunity, hit off left-hander

March 6th, 2016

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Second baseman Dee Gordon led the league in hitting last season. Marcell Ozuna could be on the brink of stardom. Christian Yelich is blossoming and Giancarlo Stanton is one of baseball's most feared sluggers.

Then there's Justin Bour, who went 2-for-3 with an RBI double in Sunday's 9-2 loss to the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium to raise his Grapefruit League batting average to .429.

That matters for a couple reasons. One is that Bour is projected to be the regular first baseman and bat fifth in the Marlins' ideal lineup this season. In that spot, he'll be called upon to not only provide some protection for Stanton, but also keep the line moving after the quartet at the top.

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The other is that his first hit on Sunday, a single up the middle, came against Tigers left-hander Matt Boyd. Bour had his breakthrough season in 2015. His 23 homers were second on the team to only Stanton, but not one of them came against a lefty. He hit just .221 in 75 at-bats against southpaws. Naturally, to be in the lineup every day all season, those splits will have to improve.

"Him coming in being more settled after last season, you get your confidence," manager Don Mattingly said. "He had a pretty good year. To be able to go into the offseason and then come back into camp kind of knowing that you're going to be on the club... Now it's a matter of working and getting your game together.

"We want to give him a chance to see what he can do against both sides. It's a real advantage for us if we can use him against left and right. We've got to see what he can do with [left-handers]. I think we all think he can do that, but we'll let that play out."

Bour got his opportunity last season when Michael Morse started in a deep slump and couldn't shake it. He was traded to the Dodgers at midseason. So this will be the first time Bour has been in big league camp with some security.

"It's a little bit easier to prepare for a game," Bour said. "It's nice, at least for the time being, to have that spot sort of solidified. I'm not used to being on this side of things. I'm used to being a fill-in guy, go run-for-when-he-gets-his-last-at-bat-in-the-eighth guy. This is obviously more enjoyable."

Worth noting

Before making the 2 1/2-hour drive for Sunday's 9-2 loss to the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium, Mattingly stayed behind in Jupiter, Fla., to watch A.J. Ramos and Jarred Cosart throw on the side.

Ramos, who has been nursing a minor right calf injury, was competing with Carter Capps for the closer's role despite notching 32 saves last season. With Capps now sidelined indefinitely with an elbow issue -- he'll be examined on Monday by Dr. James Andrews -- Ramos' status takes on added significance. Cosart, vying for a rotation spot, came up limping after a collision at third base on Friday.

Mattingly was encouraged by what he saw from both pitchers.

"I just wanted to see them," Mattingly said. "Ramos threw a simulated inning today. Obviously, that's more about getting out there with hitters in there for the first time. I wanted to see that process. I don't really know him that well, but he seems like a guy who's tough on himself. So if he wasn't as good as he wanted to be. It seemed like he was upset, but I thought he was fine.

"And Cosart, it looked like the ball came out good. He didn't really have any ill effects. We'll see where it goes now and start lining him up."

Mattingly said he wasn't sure when Ramos will be ready to pitch in a Grapefruit League game.